Gold Farming

 

I was fascinated by the reading this week, especially Dibbell’s article. Although I knew WoW gold and other virtual currencies could be bought and sold for real money, I had never really imagined who harvested it. If I did, I usually pictured some morbidly obese, unemployed 35-year-old living in his parents’ basement.
 
Obviously, R.M.T. is harmful to the spirit of the game. As Dibbell points out, gold-farming “makes it harder for beginning players to get ahead,” unless they’re willing to buy gold and items. It makes life worse for the farmers, too. Although they are for the most part thankful for their jobs, the conditions are certainly not very pleasant, and one has to wonder what 12 hours of WoW every day will do to their health. If there was a way for the makers of MMOGs to monitor the transfer of their virtual currencies, and digitally block any trades involving real money, it would clear the problem up fairly quickly.
 
Or maybe the problem lies in the design of MMOGs themselves. Nick Yee’s article details how many of these games are work-oriented; players must perform boring and repetitive tasks in order to advance in the game. This often ends with players simply quitting, burned out and overworked by a “game.”
 
I have never played WoW or any other MMOG, but I can’t imagine a game like that being fun. Perhaps if players and designers stuck to more conventional sports, racing, and shooting games like the ones we played in class, we wouldn’t have these problems.

FIFA vs. GTA

 

 

The two games I will be comparing are FIFA Soccer 10 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. They are different from each other in almost every way, but particularly in their game/story relationships.
 
FIFA 10 was released on October 20th of this year by Electronic Arts. Obviously, it falls into the “Sports” genre. It doesn’t have much of a traditional storyline; there is no character development, no cutscenes, and the possibilities are fairly limited. You can control which teams will be playing, but otherwise the player does not have too much control. The diegesis is almost the same for every time you play; two teams will face off in a soccer match and one will win. The players’ actions (passing, dribbling, shooting the ball, etc.) are all diegetic, as they impact the story of the match. In fact, they are very necessary to the game’s progress. When the volunteers stopped playing the game, the players just stood there, waiting for the ball to be put into play.
 
The main reason why FIFA 10 doesn’t have a very detailed storyline is because it is meant to imitate real-life professional soccer. Because soccer is a game, any videogame that replicates a soccer match will be play-oriented rather than story-oriented. One way in which FIFA tried to duplicate the real-life soccer experience was by using television-styled viewing. The players view the field from the same perspective as they would if they were viewing a televised match, rather than from the viewpoint of the virtual athletes. Also, instant replay is used extensively, just as it would be in a TV broadcast, and television announcers comment on the gameplay.
 
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a completely different type of game. It draws from a number of genres, but it is mainly classified as a third-person-shooter/driving game. It is much more story-oriented and literally every action the player takes is diegetic. There are many different characters, and much of the plot is revealed through cutscenes. The player can run, jump, climb, swim and drive a variety of vehicles while exploring a massive environment and interacting with other characters. The player can also alter the protagonist’s appearance; haircuts, clothing, and tattoos can all be changed in the game, and they affect the way other characters view him. The player must also be sure to eat and get exercise or his character will become less healthy. All of these actions are obviously diegetic; almost every action the player takes alters the storyline.
 
FIFA and San Andreas are both great games, but San Andreas is clearly a narratology while FIFA is a ludology. In my opinion, San Andreas is a much better game; it is obviously very fun to play, yet it also provides an incredibly intricate storyline. However, I will say that I am very partial to games with a good storyline.
 
That about wraps it up for this week, although I feel we would be able to learn a lot more about this week’s concepts if we spend next week’s class time playing more videogames.

Social Networking

 

Social networking has become indispensible to this generation. It is almost as easy to imagine life without the automobile as it is to imagine a world without Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter. Just as previous generations could not have imagined staying in touch without the telephone, people our age wouldn’t know how to communicate without social networking.
 
As with any new technology that quickly becomes popular, social networking has had both enthusiastic supporters and zealous opponents. Ever since I and my peers first began using social networking (around my sophomore year of high school), I can remember various controversies surrounding these sites. At first, adults saw social networking sites (MySpace in particular) as places where child molesters could stalk their victims. Later, incidents surfaced where people got in trouble in school or were denied jobs because of information or pictures on their Facebook pages. I remember in particular one incident at my school about three years ago. A group of then-seniors made a Facebook group celebrating their daily free-period ritual (smoking weed off-campus), and a school administrator who was on Facebook somehow saw it. Although the school eventually decided not to punish the students, many teachers and parents saw it as another reason to dissuade students from using social networking. Even today, when the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is the 35 and older group, it is still implicated in violence and blamed for poor performance in school.
 
Twitter has become the most recent target of controversy, especially since it has been embraced by a large number of celebrities. There have been multiple instances in the sports world of athletes being fined by their leagues or coaches for inappropriate tweets. The latest incident actually resulted in Chiefs running back Larry Johnson being suspended and later cut from his team after criticizing his coach in a tweet.
 
Despite the controversies, I feel that social networking is a good thing. It allows us to maintain contact with a larger group of friends. I personally communicate with people on Facebook that I wouldn’t necessarily be calling, texting, or emailing. Once people learn what they should and should not say on social networking sites, I think they will become a fully accepted method of communication.

How To Stop Trolls

 

The readings from this week have a lot in common with the readings from last week, as they both deal with the concept of a life lived online. Last week’s articles on sexism and racism in new media asked whether we really do shed our ‘real life’ stereotypes (which are often connected to our bodies) when we use the Internet. This week, the articles by Schwartz, Dibbell, and Professor Anable discussed trolls and our emotional involvement in a virtual world.
 
I was surprised to learn that many trolls or groups of trolls justify their actions by saying that they are bettering the Internet. They argue that by forcing corporations and individuals to tighten up their online security, they are helping everyone to make the Internet a safer and happier place for everyone. When a user is upset by the trolls’ actions, the trolls just claim that he or she was overinvested in the game, social networking site, or blog they were being bullied on.
 
Both are at fault, in my opinion. “The willingness of trolling ‘victims’ to be hurt by words,” is not the problem, as Jason Fortuny argued in Schwartz’s article. The trolls are simply making life more difficult for everyone. Trolling obviously affects its victims, but it also affects the rest of us; with every case of Internet vandalism, cyber-bullying, and online hate speech, the Internet’s restrictions on free speech increase. Because of rogue hackers and trolls, the Internet is coming more and more under the control of our government and corporations.
 
Some people will always try to go against the system and make trouble for others. However, we do not have to make it easy for them. Some griefers harass users to push them “toward that rare moment – at once humiliating and enlightening – when they find themselves crying over a computer game.” (Julian Dibbell; quoted in “Bad Techno Subjects” by A. Anable). If we can simply realize that although there is an endless stream of information and entertainment at our fingertips online, the Internet is not real life, and it never will be. Though computers seem like a necessary part of our world, we have to remember that humans have survived for a few hundred thousand years without them. We need to keep this in mind, and learn not to invest ourselves too heavily in online worlds.
 
This whole situation actually reminds me of an episode of the television show South Park. In this particular episode, the Internet suddenly stops working, and a worldwide crisis begins because people cannot remember how to function without it. If any of you feel like taking a break from reading boring blog posts, it’s pretty funny.
 
Anyways, it is clear to me that trolling is a highly preventable problem. If we just stop obsessing over our virtual lives and concentrate on our real lives, the problems we face on the Internet will seem small and insignificant. Certainly, the assholes who think it is fun to anonymously harass strangers are to blame, but their taunts and pranks will seem hollow once we prioritize our lives and stop worrying so much about social network sites and online games.

Trolls, Griefing, and Cyber-Rape

 

I found today’s readings particularly worrisome. Not so much that people are abusing the Internet; that has been evident since Day 1. However, it amazes and somewhat scares me that the Internet has evolved to the point that we have virtual criminals, virtual terrorists, and virtual justice and government systems.  This circumstance was the main focus of “Bad Techno-Subjects” and “A Rape in Cyberspace.”
 
“Bad Techno-Subjects” deals primarily with the proper use of digital media, and brings up the question of whether ‘trolls,’ cyberterrorists’ and the like are beneficial or not. I had a lot of questions after the reading; I was epecially confused about exactly how the ‘loyal cybertarians’ of the Patriotic Nigras are bettering the Internet. Although cybertarianism definitely is strengthened when “cracked open” by the PN, I think you need to take into account the motives and intentions of its members. I doubt most of them would say that they participate in the groups’ efforts so that everyone has a better online experience. On the other hand, from what I have seen of the group I can tell that most of their actions are lighthearted, and in fact very funny in an irreverent way. While I can’t agree that these groups are constructive, I certainly don’t think they are harmful, and they do add a lot to the entertainment aspect of the Internet.
 
However, “A Rape in Cyberspace” introduced a cyberterrorist who got his ‘lulz’ in a way that offended other users. A person with the avatar of “Mr. Bungle” hacked into the “LambdaMOO” code and gained control of their avatars, forcing them to perform perverted acts on his character and one another. Although none of these actions were real, the degradation the victims felt was so powerful that at least one of them broke down in tears. Some MOO characters even pushed to punish Mr. Bungle in the real world. I personally could not imagine getting so upset about a virtual occurrence, but trolls can cause pain in real life, too.
 
“Malwebolence” brings up several instances of people or groups of people online harassing people either online or in real life via telephone and anonymous threats. Unlike the PN (or even Mr. Bungle), these trolls ruined their targets real lives as well as their virtual ones. One suburban housewife even caused a teenage girl to commit suicide via a fake MySpace profile. This seemed to me to be the worst type of Internet harassment, and I was truly disturbed by the attitudes of Jason Fortuny and Weev in their interviews. I have a lot more questions about hackers and trolls like this, but I suppose they will have to wait until class.

Second Life

 

Although I was not in class due to illness on Thursday, I did download Second Life on my own computer. I created an avatar and explored the Second Life’s virtual world. I thought it was very intriguing that people would be willing to spend their time playing a game with no real objective. Instead of missions to complete or bad guys to kill, players are simply told to explore the landscape. This was something of a foreign concept to me, but I quickly came to see that one could spend hours discovering new things to do and people to talk to.
 
Another thing that worried me somewhat was the cyber-types and sexism I saw on second life. Everywhere in the game’s universe there are idealized virtual people walking around or modeling on billboards. The avatars in the game are completely customizable, and most people end up creating avatars that are very unrealistic. Female avatars feature ridiculously disproportional bodies, while many male avatars look like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1975. This, I think, is one of the reasons Second Life is so popular; if someone feels unattractive or unwanted in the real world, they can create a virtual version of themselves that conforms to the cultural ideal of beauty.
 
However, I do not think that these things are entirely Second Life’s fault. The game allows avatars to be completely customizable so that people are able to reflect their own real-life selves. However, most people end up projecting a fake, idealized, or cyber-typed version of themselves because of real-world ideas about the way men, women, and people of different races should look and act. When the real world eliminates its own prejudices, this will be reflected in Second Life as well as on the Internet in general.

 

Image Credit: http://screenshots.en.softonic.com/en/scrn/54000/54504/3_secondlife_chicks.jpg

Sexism and Racism in New Media

I thought the readings for this week raised some very interesting points. I personally had never considered  the sexual and racist implications in some of the videogames I have played. However, I think that the authors went a bit overboard in their criticisms.

I think that David J. Leonard's concerns were particularly unfounded. Leonard claims that sports game fulfill the white desire "to both police and become the other." He cites NFL Street and NBA Street for portraying black athletes as unnaturally athletic, animalitstic, and unruly. I would agree with him in this; I also feel that the Street games try to hard to give off a "ghetto" vibe.  However, more legitimate sports games, such as the Madden NFL and NBA Live series, share none of these characteristics. They virtually recreate every player in their real-life leagues, so any racial disparity reflects the disparity in real life professional sports.

Helen Kennedy’s analysis of Lara Croft also made some radical claims, although I felt hers were closer to the truth. There is indeed some gender issues that arise when a game aimed at teenaged boys features a physically stunning adult woman as its heroine. I especially liked her analysis of whether Lara is intended to appeal to male or female gamers. I do feel she may have overanalyzed the character, but most of her points seem close to the truth.
 
Well, this is all I have for today. I look forward to discussing these issues further in class this week.

 

Convergence in Music

 

The first example of transmedia convergence that I could think of was the music that I listen to. Most people would not consider this to be an example of convergence, but although it appears to be only one medium, the ways I pursue my hobby involve several different types of media.
 
First of all, my music comes from several different places and mediums. I might buy a CD in a store, buy a song off of iTunes, or download music for free from a variety of legal, semi-legal, and illegal websites. These obviously involve both new media (iTunes, the internet) and old (a music store). The ways I listen to it are also very diverse. I might watch music videos on YouTube, watch a concert DVD on my TV, or just listen to songs on my stereo or iPod. I even occasionally listen to records on a friend’s record player.
 
I remember one particular instance from this summer that illustrates the idea of convergence very well. My friends and I discovered that the Derek Trucks Band was playing a free concert in New York City via the band’s website. We took the train into the city, and enjoyed one of the best concerts of our lives. A week or so after the concert, we found a recording of the concert online and were able to download it and hear the show again. Although it appears at first that we were just listening to music, we were using many types of new and old media to find and enjoy it.

Derek Trucks (Image Credit: http://www.jalc.org/about/2007_galleries/spring_gala07/images/Derek%20Trucks%20by%20James%230001.jpg)

Television and Media Convergence

The articles by Brian Stelter and Will Brooker raise some very interesting questions about The convergence of television and other media, specifically the internet. Stelter's article discusses how many viewers watch television shows online rather than on-air, while Brooker's article analyzes one show (Dawson's Creek) to show how it has branched out so much that the show's on-air timeslot is only one window to the make-believe world of Dawson's Creek. This trend poses some very serious questions that the TV industry will have to answer:

1. Will the popularity of watching shows online make the actual TV set obselete?

2. How will the networks make money off of shows watched online?

3. Do the other media associated with shows such as Dawson's Creek actually add anything to the show, or do they simply over-saturate the viewer with information?

4. Are these "extras" worth the money and effort to produce them?

New Media Throughout History

 

The article we read this weekend was one of my favorites this year. The article, “Remediation” by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, discussed the concept of new media as a whole, touched on simulation and virtual reality, and discussed our fascination with hypermedia. I thought it was especially interesting how the authors were able to go back in time so to speak, and show us what the “new media” of the past looked like. For example, in the introduction, Bolter and Grusin show how medieval cathedrals and manuscripts bombarded the worshipper/reader with a variety of different mediums and sensory experiences.
 
This obviously connects to what we have today. There are thousands of websites all over the internet that engross the viewer with still pictures, video, audio, and text, much of it interactive. The more advanced our technology becomes, the more immersive our media becomes; in a few years the websites of today will seem as archaic to our children as the medieval manuscripts do to us.

More Entries

Contact Blog Owner